Friday, 14 July 2017

Sam Mustafa's Rommel

Erwin Rommel
As long-term readers of this blog may have noticed, I don't get much time for wargaming in the warmer months, and I've had even less time this year owing to pressure from other interests and commitments. I have, however, been keeping my hand in by exploring Great War Spearhead thanks to Robert Dunlop who has kindly been setting up games and teaching me the rules.

I haven't, however, been pursuing anything on my own initiative until I was recently reminded of Rommel, Sam Mustafa's forthcoming set of WW2 grand-tactical rules. Sam's reputation for analytical logic and extremely well-written, user-friendly rules is enough to persuade me to buy them as soon as they become available in the UK, but whether I will actually prefer them to Bloody Big World War Two Battles or any other alternatives will depend in large part on how well  they cover historical scenarios.

As I said previously, the appeal of the grand-tactical for me lies particularly in replaying historical battles. Having said that, Rommel has a neat army creation system for pickup games.

There are podcasts and downloads about the game on Sam's website. It's played on a grid of squares and doesn't need miniatures.  If using a 6' x 4' table the squares are 6", i.e. the grid is 12 x 8 squares. The game will also convert to hexes. Some will regard it as more of a boardgame but the approach suits me. I like grid games and the game can easily be tried out with cards or counters with the option of adding 3D toys and scenery later.

Four possible approaches have crossed my mind:

  1. Just use the unit data cards on an improvised grid which could be drawn onto butcher paper or just marked out with counters. This is the minimalist option, but should be perfectly adequate for playing purposes. 
  2. Make 30mm game counters and use them on a 3" or 4" grid or Hexon. This will make the game compact enough to fit a small table. (The grid squares need to be large enough to hold three bases which is the 'stacking' limit.)
  3. Use my 10mm Normandy armies on the default 6" grid. This will look like a proper game to people who think wargaming must involve miniatures. I would be short on artillery but can borrow some field-guns from my WW1 Square Bashing armies. 
  4. Raise some new 3mm armies for use on a 3", 4" or 6" grid or Hexon.

There's no point in using models unless they are aesthetically attractive. I've thought about / planned WW2 armies in 3mm for literally years. IMO AFVs are going to look best if mounted at least 3-up on reasonably wide bases, i. e. at least 40mm. That pushes the grid size and is probably too large for Hexon. Some of the grid squares also need to contain scenery, e.g. BUAs and woods, but I would make these fairly level so the stands can sit on top of them.


  1. Due to the scale that these rules are set at, it will be interesting to see how gamers represent their forces. Small scale and multi vehicles bases does seem the way to go to get an intuitive feel of what is being represented. It is that age old problem for WWII in getting both tanks and infantry that look big enough to enjoy, but small enough to be practical.

    1. Hi Norm

      Always good to hear from you!

      The first game I saw at this sort of scale was Tim Gow's 'Megablitz'. This game is typically played with 1/72 Airfix kits often deployed bumper to bumper like a supermarket car-park.

      Now Tim is associated with Wargame Developments who are subversive deconstructionists of figure gaming. (I say this as a subscriber!) They do however have a point. The toys are just tokens used as playing pieces. One tank representing a battalion is just as silly as 24 Napoleonic figures, although the latter has traditionally been seen as 'realistic'...

      I don't see any point in knocking other people's scale and representational preferences. It's a personal choice. Close packed 1/72 models don't work for me but a few 3mm AFVs or a single 6mm AFV with a bit of space around it would. I've only been thinking about vehicles as a scattering of infantry (as opposed to serried ranks) are not going to impress in 3mm or 6mm and I wouldn't favour such small scales for modern infantry armies. For me such armies are better in 10mm or 15mm.



  2. I'm also looking forward to the rules- in part because I have a collection of 1/300 Western Desert miniatures that need to see some action, and in part because I sell 6' x 4' 15cm gridded cloths from my bigredbatshop. :)

    1. Hi Simon

      The mats look excellent and ideal for Rommel. In fact, I had already bookmarked your shop and invite readers to check it out!


    2. Hi Richard, thanks! I've got some new designs coming in to the shop in August that will be Rommel-friendly. :-) Best, Simon

  3. I've had a long interest in operational games, purchased a few and downloaded many free ones.

    Doing operational level with models poses a number of challenges:
    What does a stand represent?
    Representing damage by roster or markers.
    What do do about varying unit frontage.
    How to represent units of small but potent weapons.
    Letting go of lower level detail.
    Making it look like a battle.

    I've followed a few podcasts and think that Sam has made wise choices in his game design.

    His choice of one stand per "reinforced company" (I think I read that right) combined with three step reduction, is quite low level compared to other operational games. I wonder how many elements will be involved in a coprs level game.

    1. Hi Stephen

      Thanks for your interesting post.

      I was originally expecting this game to be played or be playable at battalion level i.e. a base would represent a battalion. Now we know that although this option was tried, Sam plumped for one base equalling what you very appropriately describe as a reinforced company. It's paradoxical to the extent that specialist assets which could be represented as bases/companies in their own right are in fact absorbed into the armoured and infantry units. I expect some gamers will be disappointed by that, but as this level of organisational detail is so complex I am personally relieved.

      As regards the use of models I have come to the general conclusion that they are simply vignettes which need to work as vignettes.


    2. I've returned with renewed interest in the game.
      I was one of those disappointed by the company size bases. The prospect of eliminating an enemy corps one platoon at a time seemed like a grind-game I didn't need.

      I've recent'y watched the Little Wars TV crowd's video of D-Day.
      They played using Rommel rules adjusted one step up (Each stand is a battalion).

      It looked fine, and brings some serious sized battles into tabletop range.

    3. Steve

      Yes, I've seen that video and agree that the Little Wars people seem to have rescued Rommel and produced a game that meets my original aspirations. Being so abstract (not a criticism) the rules will stand this recalibration in scale. I could revisit the LW adaption but the game has other unusual aspects (e.g. the tactics) which make it too much like a boardgame and difficult to sell to other potential players.


  4. I was involved in the testing of this game. It went through a number of iterations (including an ungridded initial version), so is the result of a lot of thought :) We used 6mm figures on 40mm or 50mm bases (I forget which), and they looked pretty good.

  5. 6mm would be my second choice for this game, especially if I could pick up some ready-painted armies.